Anthropology - Locating Ethnographies

This guide helps with assignments to locate ethnographies in ANTH 135 and related classes

What Is an Ethnography?

In anthropological usage, ethnography is a genre of writing that describes a cultural group based on in-depth observations, interviews and participation. Ethnographies can be found in reference works, edited volumes and journals, but the typical format is as an ethnographic monograph, which is a single book written by one person offering a holistic portrait of a single cultural group. The word "ethnography" comes from the Greek ethnos = folk/people and graphein = writing.

NOTE: Ethnographies are a genre of writing created by anthropologists, but you may find that nowadays the term is used in a much looser way by other disciplines such as English or Education to mean something like "descriptive research." Many anthropologists, too, have moved far from the original meaning of the term. A study may be called "ethnographic" but still not qualify as an ethnography in the classic sense.

How Do I Look Up Ethnographies in the Library ESearch?

There is no one section or simple search for ethnographies, because books in the library are organized by the region or people being described, not the genre of writing.

One technique is to go to Advanced Search and type "social life and customs" into one search box AND a word for a region or people, such as "American Indians" or "New Guinea."  Be sure to look on the left column of the results page to limit the results to Library Catalog.

Another technique in Advanced Search is to search for the term "ethnology" AND a region or people, such as "Chin?" (for China, Chinese, etc.).  Again, limit the results to Library Catalog

To access a series of short ethnographies in the library, search for "case studies in cultural anthropology" as a TITLE.

Finally, searching for "culture and customs" as a TITLE will result in a set of descriptive books that are not quite ethnographies but will serve the purpose of your Anthropology 135 assignment.

Subject Guide

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Lisa Klopfer
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